UAE to learn their Asian Cup fate

25/03/2014
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The UAE will discover who they will face at the 2015 Asian Cup during a lavish ceremony on Wednesday as they look to cap a remarkable turnaround under boss Mahdi Ali. 

Hosts Australia and reigning champions Japan will be keen to avoid fellow heavyweights South Korea when officials draw the groups, while the UAE will also provide a serious threat. 

South Korea, who have reached eight World Cups in a row, lurk as dangerous floaters in the second pot of teams after temporarily falling outside Asia's top four when the seedings were decided.

Australia, four-time winners Japan, triple champions Iran and Uzbekistan make up the top tier and will be placed at the head of separate groups for the draw at the Sydney Opera House.

As well as South Korea, Jordan, who reached Asia's intercontinental play-off for a World Cup spot, and three-time winners Saudi Arabia loom as threats in the second tier.

The UAE could also provide a major test for any side having embarked on a 20-game unbeaten run – dating back to September 2012 – under the Ali. 

That included going through qualifying for the Asian Cup without a single defeat, with their only draw coming in the final game away at Uzbekistan. 

With 2007 champions Iran, and sleeping giants China, in the third pot, and 2010 World Cup contestants North Korea in the fourth, there is the potential for some tough groups at the tournament next January.

The Socceroos, who joined the Asian confederation in 2006, will hope to use home advantage to win their first Asian Cup after missing out 1-0 in extra time to Japan in the 2011 final.

But coach Ange Postecoglou said he wasn't expecting any favours from the draw after a difficult start to his reign.

"I'm not planning on it (having any luck). I haven't had a lot so far," said Postecoglou, who first has this year's World Cup to deal with. "But that's okay. At the end of the day, regardless of our draw we're at home and we're playing at a major tournament in our country and we want to do well."

The trophy will arrive by boat at the Opera House and be handed over by former Asian Cup winners, Iraq's Younis Mahmoud and Takashi Fukunishi from Japan, to ex-Socceroo Brett Emerton ahead of the ceremony.

Pot 1: Australia, Iran, Japan, Uzbekistan
Pot 2: South Korea, UAE, Jordan, Saudi Arabia
Pot 3: Oman, China, Qatar, Iraq
Pot 4: Bahrain, Kuwait, North Korea, winners of 2014 AFC Challenge Cup (TBC)

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Neymar key to Brazil’s World Cup hopes, says Pele during Dubai visit

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The greatest comes to Dubai: Brazilian legend Pele.

Brazilian legend Pele believes his country’s chances of landing World Cup glory on home soil this summer depend heavily on how young star Neymar handles the pressure placed on him.

The Barcelona forward is the face of the tournament – which kicks off in Sao Paulo on June 12 when the hosts taking on Croatia – with his performances for the Catalan club plus Brazil’s Confederations Cup success last summer raising expectation of a sixth title for the Selecao.

But while asserting that he was “very confident” that Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side could triumph, Pele sounded a word of warning as he reiterated fears over their attacking prowess.

Bar Neymar, and possibly Hulk, Brazil are for once not blessed with top-class attacking talent going into the World Cup, something that will only add to the 22-year-old Barca star’s burden.

“For the first time in the history of football Brazil has a team that is better at defending than they are in attack,” Pele said yesterday as Emirates Airline announced an extended sponsorship deal until 2016 with his former club, the New York Cosmos.

“Always when Brazil went to the World Cup, they had good forwards, scored goals, but this is the first time Brazil has a real problem setting up the attack and that is the reason Neymar is a real important piece [of the team].

“He is a very important player, because he is young. But on the other side, it’s the first time he’s going to be in the World Cup and there will be real pressure on him.”

Pele was just nine years old, and still eight years away from his World Cup-winning heroics in Sweden, when the tournament was last played on Brazilian soil in 1950.

However, he still remembers the pain of watching his country miss out on the trophy to South American rivals Uruguay.

The three-time World Cup winner added: “It’s difficult to say we’re going to win because football is a box of surprises.

“As everybody knows the only World Cup that was played in Brazil was 1950. I was nine or 10 years old. That World Cup, Brazil played in Brazil, were the best team and still lost. I hope we will not have the same experience now.”

If Brazil are to avoid such heartbreak again then their all-time record goalscorer and idol believes they must respect the usual suspects, such as Argentina, Italy, and remarkably, England.

But Pele picked out Germany, Spain, and dark horses Chile as the biggest threat to a home victory come the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 13.

The former Santos and Cosmos star said: “In my opinion three months before the World Cup the three teams that are the best at the moment are Germany because I saw they played very well; Spain, no doubt because Spain is a team who have played 10 years together so they will be a strong team, and also Brazil. “

Those teams are the best now. But you have Chile, who have been very good this year and could be a surprise. But it’s difficult and I hope Brazil get to the final.”

Pele on… 

His name
My father gave to me the name Edison, because of Thomas Edison. I don’t know what happened but the kids called me Pele. I fought everyone, I said ‘no, my name is Edison, a very important name’. But now I love it.

His favourite goal
I was 17 years old and I scored two goals in the 1958 World Cup final which was very important to me because that was the beginning of my career. Then my most important goal for me was my 1,000th goal in the Maracana Stadium, but it was a penalty kick. 

The No10 jersey
When I came to the Brazil team in 1958 I was No8, but for the World Cup I got No10 in a draw and then it became important.

His favourite Brazil team
The team which was the best was 1970. It was my last World Cup and that team had four No10s. We had Pele, Gerson, Tostao and Rivelino and a lot of the newspapers said (coach) Mario Zagallo was crazy to pick four No10s but it was the best Brazilian national team.

Other players he'd wished he’d played with
George Best. He was a very good player.

Toughest opponent 
Bobby Moore. He was tough because he was a very intelligent player, very clean but very precise.

His favourite player
I could tell you a thousand names but in the last 10 years the player that impressed me because he was a good player in the midfield, he was good in the air, he was a very good player for the team, was Zinedine Zidane.

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FC Babylon crowned VW Champions League winners

Denzil Pinto 16/03/2014
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Champions: FC Babylon.

FC Babylon were crowned the VW Champions League winners after defeating Los Compadres 2-1 in the final at Dubai American Academy.

After finishing second to Globcom in the league, FC Babylon thrashed Globcom 5-0 in their semi-final to set up a final with Los Compadres.

The 7-a-side knockout tournament, organised by Duplays, saw the top 16 teams from their respective leagues battle it out to determine the best team overall.

Gareth Curtis, Dubai operations manager at Duplays said the tournament was a success and proved popular with the players.

“The overall standard of the tournament was very good. Many players and teams played here and they said how much they enjoyed playing here," he said.

“Some of the teams have already expressed an interest in taking part in the Duplays 7s league which will be supported by Adidas and we are sure that will be a success as well.”

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